Why Women are Dropping Out of Science and Technology Careers

In today’s technology-dependent world, workers pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are in high demand. They’ve become critical to innovation, operational efficiencies, and establishing a marketplace advantage. As a result, competition for top talent is fierce — and getting fiercer.

Several sobering trends, though, are narrowing the resource pool and making it harder for HR teams to hire and retain the STEM talent their companies need:

  • Women who receive STEM degrees are less likely than their male counterparts to work in STEM jobs.1
  • More than half the women working in STEM fields leave for other careers— and almost a third leave within their first year on the job.2 Often work experiences impact the decision to leave — including a feeling of isolation, hostile work environments, and a lack of supportive sponsors.
  • Those who stay typically peak about 10 years into their career — failing to move into senior management or the executive suite.3

The bottom line: Though women continue to make gains across the broader economy, they remain dramatically underrepresented in STEM positions.

Female Retention in STEM FieldsWhy You Should Care

When women drop out of STEM careers, companies can lose critical talent and face a costly recruitment challenge. But that’s just the beginning. Multiple studies show that when women leave, it can trigger a much broader ripple effect, impacting work environments and important business outcomes. A few examples:

  • Research from CCL and Watermark shows that having a higher percentage of female talent in an organization predicts less burnout and higher levels of job satisfaction, dedication, engagement, and meaningful work.4
  • Gender-diverse teams and business units have higher revenues and profits compared to male-dominated teams.
  • Tech companies and departments with gender diversity are more likely to stay on schedule, under budget, and have improved employee performance.5
  • Since more women than men actually use technology like social media and smartphones, losing women in STEM careers means your business loses the important end-user perspectives they can bring to their work.6


How to Retain and Promote Women with STEM Talent

So, how do you retain women with the science and technology skills your business needs to succeed? And how do you promote them and help them advance into executive positions rather than stalling in mid-career?

Our research shows there are 3 important steps your company can take to improve retention and help women in STEM roles thrive:

  • Challenge them with assignments that require them to learn and practice new skills.7
  • Connect them with potential mentors and sponsors who will provide feedback and support.
  • Invest in them by offering development opportunities focused on building the leadership competencies needed to thrive in your organization.


Learn more about what your company can do to retain technical women by downloading the full white paper below.

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